Darkness. Nearly 45% of children are afraid of it. While this childhood fear is often irrational and most outgrow it by adulthood, darkness is a real danger to us all. Being plunged into darkness in an unfamiliar place is not only discomforting but can also be life-threatening. Emergency Exit Signage and Lighting are irreplaceable tools for providing safety and security when everything goes dark. They illuminate the path(s) needed to get people safely out and away from the building if necessary.

Where we locate emergency exit signage and lighting and the regulations for how the fixtures are applied and maintained are essential aspects of their use. Employees and customers need to be able to see, recognize, and clearly follow the signs for evacuation to be a success. When installing and maintaining commercial and industrial building exit signs and lighting, standards set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), OSHA, and the International Building Code (IBC) must be considered.

Emergency Lighting Codes

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) established NFPA 101, the Life Safety Code, in 1913. It is the most widely used source for strategies to protect building occupants. It is based on building construction, protection, and occupancy features that minimize the effects of fire and related hazards. It provides guidelines for life safety in both new and existing structures.

The Life Safety Code requires all commercial buildings have clear and visible emergency exit lighting and signage. The goal is to allow for emergency egress of people from a building during an emergency, limiting the possibility of panic when large numbers are present.

To ensure that commercial buildings provide a safe means for egress, the Life Safety Code requires emergency lighting in designated stairs, aisles, corridors, passageways leading to an exit, and exits that are not obvious and identifiable as exits. The emergency exit signage must be illuminated and visible from all directions leading to the exit. Any illuminated exit sign must have an emergency power source and automatically illuminate for at least 90 minutes when power is interrupted.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements were created to ensure healthy working conditions for persons during emergencies and to ensure they have exit paths that are adequately lighted. OSHA regulations for lighting and marking exit routes are covered under 1910.37(b) and require, in part, that each exit route must be adequately lighted so that an employee with normal vision can see along the exit route. Each exit must be visible and marked with a sign reading “Exit.” OSHA regulations also include guidelines related to illumination of exit signs, size of the lettering on signs, location of signage when an exit is not apparent, and marking of doors that could be mistaken for an exit but are not. While OSHA does not require specific colors for emergency exit signs, the signage must be distinctive in color from the background.

In 1910.35, OSHA regulations provide that those employers following the exit-route provisions of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, meet OSHA’s requirements and therein adopted NFPA 101’s guidelines. OSHA regulations also provide that those following the International Code Council’s International Fire Code satisfy OSHA’s compliance requirements.

The International Building Code (IBC) was created in 2000 and is a model building code regulated by the International Code Council. The IBC primarily pertains to fire prevention in new construction and renovation projects. Chapter 10, Means of Egress, contains subsections on illumination and covers lighting requirements for exit routes. Like the Life Safety Code, it calls for emergency exit lighting for nearly all occupancies and requires 90 minutes of active lighting when power is lost. Unlike other regulating documents, the IBC explicitly requires emergency lighting in areas not used for egresses, such as fire pump rooms and fire command centers.

In addition to the requirements of these three agencies, building owners must also follow the requirements of their local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). The AHJ is the local governing body responsible for monitoring and enforcing local building and fire codes. Some large cities have unique regulations and requirements for exit signs and emergency lighting. If you are unsure of your AHJ regulations, check with your local fire marshal or building inspector.

Isolite has a full line of NFPA, OSHA, and IBC compliant emergency lighting, exit signage, and combination fixtures. Isolite’s quality products are guaranteed to meet industry standards, giving you confidence in your purchase.